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Lecture

PHI 1101 Lecture Notes - Stipulative Definition, Circular Definition


Department
Philosophy
Course Code
PHI 1101
Professor
Laura Byrne

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Critical Thinking (PHI 1101 C) – Unit 2: Meaning and Definition
The sense of a word is what we understand when we understand the
meaning. It is specified by a dictionary definition. For example, the sense of
the word bachelor is an unmarried male. Sense is also sometimes called
connotation or intension.
The reference of a term is the class of things to which the word refers; the things
to which the concept points. For example, the reference of the word bachelor is the
class of bachelors who exist in the universe now, and who will exist in the past and
future.
There are three main types of definition:
1) Reportive definition reports a word in its standard usage (how the words
is, in fact, used by those who make regular use of it; how the word is used by
competent speakers of the language) For example, impious is not believing in
god or the gods.
2) Stipulative definition is used when a meaning for a word in its standard
usage is either not precise enough or as yet, has no term for a phenomenon.
For example spam can either be edible or electronic. These definitions are
intended to establish a new or restricted meaning for a term; as such, they
cannot be faulted for failing to convey standard usage.
3) Essentialist definition “What is justice?” “What is love?” There is no
definite answer, just speculation. These definitions are intended to describe
the essential nature of something; there is no guarantee that the standard
usage of a term will reflect a correct understanding of its essence.
A good reportive definition will accurately describe the actual standard usage of the
term. There are several ways in which a reportive definition can fail to be a good
definition...
Too broad: A definition is too broad when the defining phrase refers to some
things that are not included in the reference of the term being defined. For
example, a broad definition of a pillow is something soft to rest on.
Too narrow: A definition is too narrow when the defining phrase fails to refer
to some things that are included in the referenced of the term being defined.
For example, a narrow definition of a school is an institution that aims at
teaching children how to read and write. This definition fails to refer to school
that do not aim at teaching children to read and write, such as medical and
dance schools.
Too broad and too narrow: A definition is too broad and too narrow when
its defining phrase refers to some things to which the term does not apply
AND fails to refer to some things to which the terms do apply. For example, a
pen is an instrument designed for writing words. This is too broad because it
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